Solido Military – Transformables

Bring up the Guns!

Build and Rebuild

As we’ve already seen elsewhere in this website, a popular category of toys is those that involve using a set of parts to build, breakdown and rebuild models. Solido termed their creations of this type transformables. Amongst the toys they created in their early years, were a classic example of this: the 1936 “Canons a Transformation”, a range of parts from which a bewildering variety of artillery pieces could be assembled.

The post-war Solido military range is mainly known for the armoured vehicles which headlined it, backed up by a number of trucks and support vehicles. Nonetheless, in 1962, shortly after starting the series, Solido released three artillery pieces

  • 204 Fortress AA Gun
  • 205 105mm Field Gun
  • 206 250mm Howitzer

These were, unlike their 1936 set, but in accordance with the rest of the Solido military range, fully-assembled and finished pieces. But once we look more closely at them, we discover that Solido’s ‘transformable’ past has not been forgotten, after all… We’ll start by taking a closer look at the field gun.

The 105mm Field Gun

Solido 205 105mm Howitzer

Year first produced:1962

L190xW59xH59, Metal 162g, Scale 1:32?, Features: 6

Like most Solido models, the gun is mainly composed of Mazak castings. A little examination reveals these to be the gun itself, the gun-shield, the mounting, the base (top and bottom) and the trail legs. That’s a lot of castings for a single model, but it does allow a large amount of movement: the gun elevates and turns, and the trail legs can be independently positioned. The carriage base incorporates two rotating wheels, with plastic hubs and rubber tyres. The trail legs can be splayed for firing, or overlapped for towing.

Elevation or depression of the gun is achieved by turning the wheel at the left side of the breech, which engages cogs to raise or lower the barrel. It can be held in whatever position it has reached by tightening the wheel on the right of the breech. Either side of the gun are what look like hydraulic cylinders made in plastic, which are a bit puzzling. I think they must be representing a system for absorbing the recoil when the gun is fired, and automatically returning it to a firing position.

The wheel for elevating the gun, and the recoil absorbers are prominent features of the model.

Unlike the Solido tanks, the gun can fire projectiles. In the breech there is a spring-loaded trigger that can be cocked by pulling it back and locked by turning it to one side. A plastic shell can be placed down the muzzle, and fired by releasing the trigger. There is also a slot in the breech to insert caps into, so that you can get a simultaneous crack when the gun fires. Happy days!

On the base are the brief marks

“solido” and “MADE IN FRANCE”.

The baseplate of the gun. Note the hexagonal nut securing the baseplate

Note that there is no mention on the model of the artillery piece that it represents. In the Solido catalogues the model is described simply as a 105mm howitzer, but I can’t identify a French gun of that calibre and era that matches it.

The scale of the model is similarly difficult to assess, but at first glance the model looks big compared to Solido tanks. 105mm guns of the early Cold War era seem to have averaged approximately 6 metres long, and our model with trail joined for towing measures 19cm. This would indicate a scale of c1:32. For what it’s worth, the gun barrel has a c3.5mm wide opening, which represents 105mm in 1:30 scale. So, it looks like the model is somewhere in that range.

Solido generally made their military vehicles in 1:50 scale, but switched to 1:43 for some of the smaller machines such as jeeps and staff cars, so a scale of 1:32 would be unusual. But then, of course, the Solido guns were unusual when compared to the rest of their range – let’s see why.

Transformables

I mentioned in the description above, that the gun is made of more pieces than one might have thought necessary.  There are two clues as to what is going on. The first is furnished by examining the other guns that Solido released at the same time. It’s easy to see that all three guns, despite representing widely differing designs, share most components.

The howitzer has a huge barrel, but note the family resemblance with the 105mm.

The 250mm howitzer has (obviously) a different gun, and there are four wheels on the trail, but it has the same gun mount, base, shield and trail legs. One point worth making in passing is that such a large calibre artillery piece would have been much larger than the field gun, so we can surmise that Solido were not overly concerned about keeping to a single scale.

The AA gun has no wheels since it represents a static installation, but nonetheless once again it sports the same gun, shield, mount and base plus two sets of trail legs, positioned so that they can form a cross for greater stability. In addition, a decking piece has been added for the crew to stand on during firing (which unfortunately interferes with the breech of the gun when it is elevated too far).

Note the double set of trail legs and crew platform on the AA gun.

The second clue is the presence of several hexagonal nuts, securing the parts together. Solido obviously intended that these guns could be disassembled (and therefore reassembled), just like their pre-war ‘transformables’. In fact, Solido also separately released a couple of artillery sets, comprising a selection of parts from which any of the guns could be assembled, and a spanner to enable this – an updated “Canons a Transformation”. These sets are very rare nowadays!

The key component – bespoke spanner for gripping hexagonal nuts.

If we pause at this point, and consider the nature of the Solido guns as compared to the rest of the military series, we can see that they are unique in four ways. They are transformables rather than assembled models; they can fire projectiles; they do not (as far as I can tell) represent actual subjects but rather they are generic types; and the scale is both unknown and variable. As such I think they are a poor fit within the rest of the range, and perhaps more toylike than models.

Postscript: Bang!

But of course, if the toys are more ‘toylike’, that means we ought to be able to get some juvenile fun out of them! They were made to fire missiles, so down to the firing range.

For the firing tests, I used the shells supplied with the gun, which are fairly lightweight plastic projectiles. I began by firing the gun several times, to establish the optimum elevation for achieving maximum range. Once I had this, I tightened the wheels on the model to fix the elevation.

On he right, the plastic shells – a lot smaller and flimsier than matchsticks, but no doubt more aerodynamic. Note on the left some gunpowder caps that could be fitted into the gun to make a bang! when firing.

I then followed the same protocol that I have used in a previous story about the Britains Deetail 25-pounder gun, firing the gun 6 times and recording the distance the shell travelled (initially in the air, and then along the floor) by measuring from the front of the model’s gun-shield. The results of that test are reproduced here:

Britains 25-pdrAverageMaximumAccuracy
9705438cm455cmTightly grouped
9704, early mechanism280cm308cm 
9704, late mechanism242cm276cmProne to misfires

So how did the Solido fare? The average of all the firings was 388cm, the maximum being 409cm. This gives it slightly less range than the older (9705) Britains model, but significantly more than either Deetail (9704) model. The six shots were also closely grouped, with little sideways deviation, so we can also say that the Solido is a fairly accurate weapon.


SEE ALSO…

Solido made one further use of the artillery pieces they had created. The gun and shield were mounted onto a tracked hull, and sold as the 219 Tank Destroyer M41. This is an unfortunate title, as the M41 was not a tank destroyer, but a self-propelled gun – a mobile artillery piece useful for providing indirect high-explosive firepower in support of infantry. Nonetheless, the main significance of the Solido M41 model is that it is the only armoured vehicle they produced with a gun that can fire projectiles.

The M41, nicknamed the Gorilla

Some years after the artillery pieces were produced, Solido created a much simpler field gun model (239 Light Gun 105mm) that was only sold as a set with a towing vehicle, the 235 Simca Unic 4×4 truck.

Author: hexeres

Amateur photographer, military toy enthusiast, footslogger, dog lover, history buff and ebay trader to mention just a few...

2 thoughts on “Solido Military – Transformables”

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